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Bengals' beat down of Tom Brady got Doug Marrone's attention

By Jay Skurski

With the Buffalo Bills having played Thursday night, they got a chance to do some advance scouting Sunday for their next opponent.

So, too, did many Western New Yorkers who watched CBS' broadcast of the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-6 victory over the New England Patriots. The Bengals ended New England quarterback Tom Brady's streak of 52 straight games with a touchdown pass, which was just two games short of the record held by New Orleans' Drew Brees.

"I saw some of it. They did a nice job," said Bills coach Doug Marone, who is an acquaintance of Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. "He's always had good defenses. I think that they played extremely well, they held them out, they didn’t score a touchdown and that’s a challenge.

Continue reading "Bengals' beat down of Tom Brady got Doug Marrone's attention" »

Bills only NFL team without a 20-yard play on opening day

By Tim Graham

Last week, 121 NFL offensive plays went for at least 20 yards.

The Buffalo Bills were the only team that didn't have any.

Bills coach Doug Marrone and quarterback EJ Manuel refuted the notion the playbook was simplified for the rookie quarterback on opening day against the New England Patriots. They claimed the game plan called for short throws against the Patriots' defense.

Manuel revealed Wednesday the game plan for Sunday against the Carolina Panthers would include more deep passes.

The problem with chunk plays, Manuel explained, was poor execution when the Bills had a chance to open up their offense.

Continue reading "Bills only NFL team without a 20-yard play on opening day" »

On the line from Vegas: Trends eclipse changes until further notice

By Tim Graham

Last year's quarterback class has been toted as the best since 1983.

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson were phenomenal. Ryan Tannehill performed solidly. Brandon Weeden was passable.

All around, a remarkable first year.

Nevertheless, they went 1-4 in their NFL debuts. They were 2-3 against the spread. Luck and Tannehill were blown out by 20 points. One of the quarterbacks who covered, Weeden, threw four interceptions.

"This quarterback class is considered poor compared to last year's class," said Las Vegas oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski, "and last year's class didn't do well on opening day."

That's one more consideration that doesn't bode well for EJ Manuel and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Staniszewski, a Sloan native and Buffalo State grad, is an oddsmaker for Cantor Gaming, which operates race and sports books at the Venetian, Tropicana, Hard Rock, Palms, Palazzo, M Resort, Cosmopolitan and Silverton casinos in Las Vegas.

Staniszewski has provided oddsmaking analysis for the Press Coverage blog and is back for another season.

The New England Patriots are favored over the Bills by 10 to 11 points, depending on the sports book. The over/under total is 51 points.

Staniszewski groaned as he listed the trends that go against his Bills.

  • The Patriots are 18-1 straight up in their past 19 games against the Bills.
  • The Patriots are 11-2 straight up over their past 13 games in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
  • The Patriots are 7-1-1 against the spread in their past nine trips to The Ralph.
  • The Patriots are 40-23 against the spread versus the AFC East since 2001.
  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 113-78 against the spread over his career.

But how does Las Vegas apply those trends when considering the Bills have reinvented themselves?

Aren't betting trends irrelevant against these Bills?

"It's not as difficult as people think," Staniszewski said of establishing a spread. "You can say the trends don't matter because it wasn't against this coaching staff and EJ Manuel.

"The fact remains it's still the Bills versus the Patriots. The betting public doesn't necessarily care whether it's EJ Manuel or Ryan Fitzpatrick. You can put up a number that's smaller because it's a different regime, young hungry coaches, team on the rise.

"But people who bet think, 'Tom Brady versus the Bills.' You can't give the Bills the benefit of the doubt until they prove us wrong."

Staniszewski noted the spread fluttered a tad when over talk undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel might start at quarterback instead of Manuel. The line settled after Manuel was declared the starter.

"But when the Bills play the Patriots," Staniszewski said, "everybody loves the Patriots."

Can Bills steal a victory from 'average' Patriots on opening day?

By Tim Graham

The New England Patriots probably won't have any household names catching Tom Brady's passes on opening day.

Does that mean the Buffalo Bills will catch a break?

NFL Network reporter Albert Breer explored how much the defending AFC East champs could struggle at the beginning of the season.

To recap a Press Coverage story in which Jim Kelly a couple weeks ago called the Patriots "vulnerable," 88 percent of New England's catches, 87 percent of its yards and 88 percent of its touchdowns are off the roster or hurt. Gone are Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead. Aaron Hernandez is awaiting a murder trial. Rob Gronkowski is recovering from another surgery.

Continue reading "Can Bills steal a victory from 'average' Patriots on opening day?" »

What will Buffalo's defense look like? This, that and the other

By Tim Graham

Despite the urge to slap a label on the he Buffalo Bills' new defense, Mike Pettine's general system can't be categorized definitively as a 3-4 or a 4-3.

What's the difference?

The point is nobody's supposed to know.

Continue reading "What will Buffalo's defense look like? This, that and the other" »

Buffalo Bills fans to Wes Welker: Good riddance

By Tim Graham

If Tom Brady is upset, then Buffalo Bills fans should be thrilled.

Prolific slot receiver Wes Welker went bye-bye, leaving the New England Patriots for the Denver Broncos.

For the first time in nine seasons, Welker won't be in the AFC East. The Bills won't have to worry about him zipping across the middle of the field for 10 yards, 9 yards, 12 yards relentlessly.

Brady apparently was not amused by this development. Comcast Sportsnet New England reporter Tom E. Curran quoted someone close to Brady as calling the development a "disgrace" and a "disservice."

Yahoo! Sports writer Michael Silver also spoke with another source close to Brady, and the reaction was equally unpleasant.

"If the offense doesn't perform at a high level, they're screwed," the source was quoted by Silver. "This is unbelievable. It's hard not to feel like they've sold him out."

Continue reading "Buffalo Bills fans to Wes Welker: Good riddance" »


About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |